Chicago Bears: Ryan Mundy

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Ryan Mundy on Thursday became the 2014 winner of the “Good Guy” award, presented by the Chicago chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America.

A six-year veteran, Mundy received the award based on his professionalism, courtesy and respect during the 2014 season.

Mundy is the second recipient of the award. Former Bears quarterback Josh McCown received the award in 2013.

“It’s something I’m proud of,” Mundy said. “Being there for the media is particularly important with the season we are having so we can help tell the story. If no one says anything, writers are left to write whatever they think is going on. The message can get distorted. I’ve tried to give perspective on where we are as a team. That was my role, one of my responsibilities I took on this year.”

Mundy signed a two-year contract with the Bears last offseason worth $3 million, and in 13 games he’s contributed 85 tackles, three pass breakups, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Having spent time playing in Pittsburgh (2008-12) and with the New York Giants (2013), Mundy learned the importance of conducting himself professionally with the media by watching former Steelers teammates Ryan Clark and Charlie Batch, he said.

“I’m one of the older guys now,” Mundy said. “So I’m trying to set an example for some of the young guys on how to communicate and be respectful and mindful.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman chose not to address his team about its official elimination from postseason contention on Sunday, and opted instead to continue a one-day-at-a-time approach Monday when the players convened at Halas Hall.

“The only thing I addressed with the playoffs today was getting better today,” Trestman said. “Our whole focus is giving them some substance in what to do over the next couple of days to get ready to play New Orleans.”

That didn’t stop players from venting frustration about a 2014 season the team entered with high expectations after an 8-8 finish in 2013, Trestman’s first year as head coach of the Chicago Bears.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh"It's frustrating that it hasn't worked the way that we wanted it," coach Marc Trestman said of the Bears missing the playoffs, "but that doesn't change our focus or our level of intensity to try to improve it and make it better."
Without playing a game, the Chicago Bears became officially eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday, marking the fourth consecutive season the club failed to advance to the playoffs.

The Detroit Lions made that happen with their 34-17 triumph over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both NFC wild card teams will now have at least nine victories, and the best record the Bears can hope to achieve is 8-8 if they win the remainder of their games.

“It’s very disappointing for sure,” safety Ryan Mundy said. “Coming into the season, we had very high expectations. This is the bed we made. So we have to lay in it now. It’s very frustrating and disappointing, but we still have three games left. We still have an opportunity to play the game that we loved as children. We’ll go out there and play with passion and have fun and enjoy working with these guys for three more games.”

With matchups on deck against the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings, Bears defensive end Willie Young said now is the time the club embraces the spoiler role. In fact, now it’s time to start playing for jobs in 2015, according to Young.

“We’ve got everybody we need in place; playmakers, guys giving us great looks in practice every day,” Young said. “Everything is in place, you know? Like you said, you look back, and everything we have, our record doesn’t add up to anything we’ve done since offseason workouts beginning in April.I’m very disappointed with where we’re at right now. Who isn’t? But it’s important we stay together as a team. We can’t come in frowning, moping around, you know poor body language. We can’t do that. That’s not what we’re about here. The approach I take personally is that this is the beginning of next year. Right now this is the first week of next year, 2015 for us.”

Tight end Martellus Bennett agreed.

"I think everybody's job is always on the line," Bennett said. "For me, it's not really a distraction."

When Trestman addressed the Bears at Halas Hall on Monday, the coach said he reiterated “the most important thing is doing the best we can today, focusing on the next game and preparing for the next game.” By doing that, the players can show “what it is to be a professional” during difficult times, he said.

“It’s frustrating that it hasn’t worked the way that we wanted it, but that doesn’t change our focus or our level of intensity to try to improve it and make it better,” Trestman said. “Our purpose is to make our players better, and put them in position to win on Sunday and Monday night, and that’s what we’re going to try to do this week. That hasn’t changed since Day 1.”

CHICAGO -- Lovie Smith stamped Chicago's defense with a takeaway mindset during his nine-year tenure, and standing on the opposite sideline Sunday as coach of Tampa Bay, he watched the Buccaneers fall victim to his Bears brainchild.

Down 10-0 to start the second half, the Chicago Bears scored 14 points off three third-quarter takeaways to best the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-13 at Soldier Field.

In all, Chicago gobbled up four takeaways.

[+] EnlargeBears
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesRyan Mundy's interception was one of four Bears takeaways against Lovie Smith's Buccaneers. The Bears are 8-0 under Marc Trestman when they finish with a positive turnover margin.
"They were big," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're not going to apologize for the short fields. We haven't had very many, but we're not going to apologize for creating the turnovers we did."

A light rain fell at kickoff, but as the game progressed, the precipitation increased along with Chicago's prospects for forcing turnovers. Several Bears defenders said the sloppy conditions helped them to take away the ball.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," safety Ryan Mundy said. "But takeaways are our focus every game. We come in trying to be plus-2 [in turnover margin] every game because that's what this defense has thrived on for so many years. That's one of the pillars of our defense. Particularly, when the weather gets nasty, offenses have trouble handling the ball. So we need to exploit that moving forward. We knew they were going to be playing for takeaways because when Coach Smith was here, those were the coaching points for [the Bears]."

David Bass' strip-sack of Josh McCown with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter turned the tide of the game, as Matt Forte busted a 13-yard touchdown run behind left guard Kyle Long on the next play from scrimmage to give the Bears a 14-10 lead after the extra point.

In a span of 1:49, Forte scored two touchdowns off Bears takeaways. Mundy picked off a pass that bounced off Charles Sims' hands to set up Forte's second score. Chicago needed to move the ball a total of 28 yards on five plays for Forte's touchdowns.

"When you get into this weather, it's not optimal throwing conditions," McCown said. "But you've got to manage it the best you can. Those two [turnovers] right there back-to-back hurt us. It's tough, but we've got to do a better job of managing it."

Earlier in the game, Chris Conte picked off McCown. But Jay Cutler fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Tampa Bay capitalized with a McCown touchdown pass to Mike Evans. Chicago's opponents this season have now scored 82 points off turnovers, with Cutler committing 18 of the team's 21.

The Bears' defense, however, has scored 63 points this season off 18 takeaways. Since 2006, the Bears are 50-10 when they finish games with a positive turnover margin (8-0 under Trestman in those conditions), 13-35 in games on the negative side of turnover margin and 14-16 when the turnover margin is equal.

"With them coming in, Lovie preaches [turnovers] a lot, so we knew we had to win the turnover battle," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "That was huge for our success today. We needed that."

During Smith's tenure in Chicago, the Bears led the NFL in takeaways (310), returning 34 of them for touchdowns, including 26 interceptions returned for scores. That tied for the most in the NFL during that span.

Smith couldn't help but admit that the Bears beat him at his own game.

"Yeah, I think most teams win with that turnover ratio," Smith said. "There are a lot of defensive players [for Chicago] that bought into that, and, like most games, that's normally what's going to determine the winner."

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Defensive end Jared Allen maintained positivity but spoke truth after the Chicago Bears' defense played punching bag to a New England Patriots attack that constantly wobbled the visitors with haymakers Sunday on the way to a 51-23 knockout at Gillette Stadium.

"The only positive side of a butt-kicking like this is there are going to be a lot of glaring things on film we can improve on," Allen said. "The ones that are tough are when you play really well and still lose. At least in this one, we flat out got it handed to us."

No disagreement here.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
AP Photo/Steven SenneThe Bears say they weren't caught off guard by what the Patriots displayed Sunday, but a combination of execution and Tom Brady's precision proved overwhelming.
What's somewhat surprising is the Bears have now surrendered 45 points or more in three of their past 18 games. To put that into perspective, consider the fact the Bears allowed 45 points or more in just three of 222 games prior to Sunday, dating all the way to Week 9 of the 1999 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Patriots rolled up 487 yards of offense and put points on the board on eight of 10 offensive possessions with five touchdowns and only one punt. Perhaps more surprising, and probably embarrassing for Chicago, is Tom Brady tossing as many touchdowns (five) as incompletions in lighting up the Bears for 354 yards on 30-of-35 passing. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Brandon LaFell put on a pass-catching clinic.

So much for the $34 million guaranteed spent to ramp up the front four with the additions of Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, who failed to sack Brady, or merely disrupt the quarterback, as he put up a passer rating of 148.8.

Gronkowski caught all nine of the passes thrown his direction for 149 yards and three touchdowns, while LaFell pulled down each of the 11 throws his way for 124 yards and a touchdown. Gronkowski gave Chicago the most trouble, and, despite the Bears' deployment of various players against him in coverage, strangely, they never elected to double-team the tight end.

"You saw it. You see the struggles," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "There's a size matchup when you have him man-to-man. We had him covered man-to-man by two to three different players. As I said, Tom made meticulous throws. He was on target even when he was covered, so you have to give him credit for that. And he caught some in zone as well certainly, but we had some very tight coverage on him, some hip-to-hip coverage, and the ball was thrown perfectly."

Bears safety Ryan Mundy matched up one-on-one against Gronkowski in some instances and made no excuses for his or the team's inability to neutralize the tight end. Mundy said the Bears prepped all week for what they saw on Sunday, and the Patriots attacked the way they expected based off the team's film study.

"It boils down to execution, and that's what our system is based on: everyone doing their jobs," Mundy said. "They started out in good field position and were able to get some runs. But we knew what type of team they were, and we knew their personnel. [Gronkowski] is a great athlete, and you've got to give him credit."

In all, the Patriots hit 10 plays for a gain of 17 yards or more. Most importantly, they put pressure on Chicago's defense by staying out of third-and-long situations. In the first quarter, the Patriots converted three third-down conversions, with the longest being a third-and-3.

Then, in the second quarter, New England faced two third-and-long situations (third-and-18 and third-and-16), yet converted them both on Brady completions to Gronkowski for gains of 21 and 17 yards as the home team put up 31 points (one score came via the Patriots' defense) in the second quarter.

Linebacker D.J. Williams admitted to being "personally embarrassed with the performance" on defense, and Young believes "it's not time to blow your top yet."

According to Allen, Chicago "had a heck of a week of practice" coming off a drama-inducing loss last week to the Miami Dolphins, yet the club failed to respond against Brady and the Patriots. With a week off to rest and re-evaluate, the Bears return to work at Halas Hall next Monday, but the road doesn't get any easier with them set to face the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 9 at Lambeau Field.

"It's Week 8. We're not going to come out of the bye, try to make a new defense and create a new identity," Mundy said. "That wouldn't be very smart of us."

Maintaining the status quo wouldn't be, either.

Bears OL reunited at practice

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Injuries forced the Chicago Bears to use four different offensive line combinations through six games, but all five starters were together on the practice field Thursday in preparation to play the Miami Dolphins.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (ankle/knee) is likely to return to action on Sunday after being upgraded to full participation in practice, while right tackle Jordan Mills (right) did limited work following a rest day on Wednesday.

“Today was like the first time we’ve all practiced together since Week 1,” Mills said. “I wasn’t there in OTAs (foot surgery) and parts of camp. Then it was Kyle Long when he had his illness. Then unfortunately Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson got hurt in the same game (Buffalo) with the same injury. Then Bushrod [suffered his injury at practice before Carolina game]. But all these dudes [we have as reserves] played so well it was like nobody ever left.”

Linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were the only ones to sit out Thursday’s indoor session, but head coach Marc Trestman refused to officially rule out either player, yet.

Trestman said the Bears have rotated safeties Ryan Mundy, Brock Vereen and Danny McCray this week at practice, but Mundy and Vereen lined up together in Atlanta after Conte left the game, the fourth game he’s been unable to finish in 2014. Conte did cardiovascular work on Thursday.

Linebackers Jon Bostic (back) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) had limited participation.

Cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps/knee) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) practiced without restrictions and are expected to be available to face Miami.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman announced Wednesday that strongside linebacker Shea McClellin will miss his second consecutive game Sunday when the club hosts the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

Trestman called McClellin “week-to-week,” but also said the third-year linebacker won’t be working out with the team this week. McClellin broke his right hand last week during practice.

In other injury news, Trestman said he’s “not optimistic, quite frankly” about the potential availability of starting center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) for the matchup versus the Packers.

“But it is possible they could be ready to go on Thursday and Friday at practice,” Trestman said. “But it’s day-to-day and we’ll stay with the injury report on that.”

Despite the injuries, the club’s fill-ins at McClellin’s linebacker spot and along the offensive line have performed well.

Second-year pro Jon Bostic replaced McClellin in the starting lineup Monday night against the Jets, and racked up a career-high 13 tackles to go with a couple of pass breakups.

“Very good to the football,” Trestman said of Bostic’s performance. “Obviously, we’d love him to catch that ball [for an interception] there at the end of the game. But other than that, I thought he took on blocks at the line of scrimmage, at the point. He fit the run and ran to the ball. Really, I thought he played well and used his athleticism and physicality to really help our football team.”

Up front, Brian de la Puente replaced Garza in the starting lineup, while Michael Ola filled in for Slauson. The duo has filled in now for two games, as the offensive line has surrendered a total of six sacks in that span.

Because of the short week of preparation coming off Monday night’s win over the New York Jets, the Bears took part in walk-throughs instead of a full workout. Had the Bears practiced, defensive end Jared Allen (illness), fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring), Garza, Slauson, receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) would have been non-participants. Safeties Ryan Mundy (shoulder) and Chris Conte (shoulder) would have been limited.

Mundy suffered what he called a “serious stinger” against the Jets.

“I’m feeling good right now and just doing the necessary things I need to do to make sure I’m ready to play on Sunday,” Mundy said.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-19 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: This is the “backbone” building Marc Trestman always talks about. Two road wins in a row should build confidence for the club before it hosts the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, followed by back-to-back outings at the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. A 2-1 start with two of the first three games on the road is a major win for the Bears. Remember, after the loss in the season opener to the Buffalo Bills, there was the thought Chicago might start 0-3. That’s a distant memory now.

Stock watch: Interestingly, in the locker room at Halas Hall just Saturday, Martellus Bennett joked (or was he joking after all?) the Jets would focus so much on outside targets Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery that he’d be free to make plays down the middle. Bennett caught 15 passes in the first two games for a pair of touchdowns, and tacked on two more TDs against the Jets. Bennett is one of 10 tight ends in the NFL since the start of the 2012 season to gain more than 1,000 yards receiving and haul in 10 scoring receptions.

Points off takeaways: The Bears entered Monday having scored 21 points off five takeaways, which tied for third in the NFL headed into Week 3 matchups. Chicago generated two more takeaways in the first half, leading to 14 points. Ryan Mundy scored the first TD 32 seconds into the game, when he picked off Geno Smith's screen pass to Chris Johnson and returned it 45 yards. Recent addition Ahmad Dixon pounced on Jalen Saunders' fumble at the New York 40 to set up the second score off a takeaway.

Interestingly, both the Bears’ TDs in the first half came from former New York Giants Mundy and Bennett.

In all, the Bears have gobbled up eight takeaways.

Game ball: Mundy set the tone for Chicago’s defense less than a minute into the game with his pick-six. Ever since the Bears brought him aboard, I’ve looked for reasons to doubt him. That comes to an end now. Mundy is better than we’ve given him credit for, and his virtually mistake-free play was desperately needed on the back end.

What’s next: The Bears will take the day off on Tuesday. Some of the injured players will come in for treatment, but the team won’t convene at Halas Hall again until Wednesday to begin preparations for Sunday’s game against NFC North rival Green Bay.

Chris Conte cleared for season opener

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Safety Chris Conte received medical clearance to return from a concussion he suffered on Aug. 22, and is expected to play Sunday when the Chicago Bears kick off the regular season against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.

Conte practiced without restrictions on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Bears head coach Marc Trestman revealed the team planned to use a rotation at the safety position in Week 1 between Conte, Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray. Mundy and McCray will be asked to additionally contribute on special teams, where both players have excelled at during their respective NFL careers. Trestman did not announce the starting safeties for the Bills game. That decision may come on Friday.

“I’m excited,” Conte said. “It was a good little warm-up in [the third preseason game in] Seattle and now it’s the real deal. I know I’m excited and the rest of my teammates are excited too.

“I’ve heard that there is going to be a rotation going, so however that works and whenever I get an opportunity, I need to make the most out of it.”

Conte is looking to recover from a rocky 2013 campaign, which was exasperated by a porous defensive line that finished dead last in rushing yards allowed per game. (161.4). The line has since been revamped.

“I don’t plan on having a lot of support [from the fans]. That’s for sure,” Conte said. “But I’m going to go out there and play football. That’s what my job is, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

One area to monitor on Sunday is Conte’s conditioning. The safety missed the entire offseason program and the first couple of weeks of training camp because of offseason surgery. Conte did return to face the Seahawks, but the concussion he sustained at Century Link Field forced him back off the practice field the following week. Conte was officially listed as having limited practice participation on Monday and Wednesday.

Conte’s lack of preseason reps is one reason Trestman wants all three safeties prepared to play.

“We’ll see where Conte is as the game moves along,” Trestman said. “We feel good about the fact we have guys we can move in there. That’s kind of the approach we are going to take. It would be that way with anybody who is coming off this type of situation; who hadn’t had a lot of training camp.”

In other injury news, fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) had limited participation on Thursday, but offensive lineman Brian de la Puente (knee) had full participation, according to the Bears’ official injury report. Quarterback David Fales has been ruled out with a sore shoulder.

Conte, de la Puente, Fiammetta limited

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte (concussion), center Brian de la Puente (knee) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) all practiced on a limited basis Wednesday as the team started to install its game plan for the regular-season opener this weekend against the Buffalo Bills.

The Bears ruled out No. 3 quarterback David Fales due to a shoulder injury he suffered last week in the preseason finale in Cleveland.

Conte is expected to receive medical clearance to face the Bills later in the week.

Safety Ryan Mundy practiced with a large bandage on his forehead after having 15 stitches removed Monday. Mundy sustained a deep laceration to his forehead in the third week of the preseason and for some time was unable to wear a helmet.

"My head is good enough for me to practice," Mundy said. "I got my stitches out Monday morning. Fifteen [stitches]. It's a minor setback, but I feel good out there, and I'm preparing to play on Sunday.

"I've just got to make sure [the wound] is covered up. I'm really trying to have as little contact as I possibly can right now to give it time to heal. But the doctors said it looks good."

Mundy said he switched to a Riddell brand of helmets in the wake of the injury.

Briggs excused, Conte limited in practice

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears veteran linebacker Lance Briggs was excused from the first regular season practice by coach Marc Trestman, who said Briggs cleared the absence with him.

Trestman declined to elaborate on Briggs’ whereabouts, but the linebacker is scheduled to open up a new restaurant Monday in his hometown of Elk Grove, California.

“I had communication with him three weeks ago about it,” Trestman said. “We talked about it. And I excused him for personal reasons. So this is not something that happened yesterday or the day before. He contacted me a couple weeks ago and I said, ‘Yeah, you can go.’ That was it.

“I’m not going to speak for him with what he’s doing today. I can tell you that I excused him and that this is something that now took place a long time ago. Where he’s gone is between him and the reasons that he had to go. But it was good by me.”

Minus Briggs, wide receiver Marquess Wilson and quarterback David Fales (shoulder), the Bears had a full roster on the practice field Monday, including safety Chris Conte who participated on a limited basis.

However, Conte has yet to be fully cleared to return from the concussion he suffered in the third preseason game on Aug. 22. That leaves the starting safety combination still somewhat of a mystery heading into Sunday’s Week 1 game versus the Buffalo Bills, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray spent the bulk of the summer working together on the first-team.

“I think we’re going to still wait and see [on safety],” Trestman said. “We’re rotating the guys around. And we’ll talk more about that on Wednesday. And we’ll get them started in the right direction. I’d just rather wait another day-and-a-half. But we’ve got four guys that we moved around. Chris got work today, so we have to see where he is as well going into Wednesday’s practice.”

The Bears are off on Tuesday. The first official injury report of the regular season is due on Wednesday.

Mills, Britton to make preseason debuts?

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held five players out of their final full practice before Thursday’s preseason finale in Cleveland: safety Ryan Mundy, offensive lineman Brian de la Puente, wide receiver Marquess Wilson, fullback Tony Fiammetta and safety Chris Conte.

Cornerback Isaiah Frey also missed the workout due to a sore hamstring, but Frey and guard James Brown were later waived to trim the Bears’ active roster down to 75 active players before the 3 p.m. CT deadline.

Generally speaking, the first-team plays very little, if at all, in the fourth preseason game.

However, an argument can be made that certain veterans would benefit from some playing time versus the Browns. Among that group is Jordan Mills. A foot injury forced the starting right tackle to miss the first three preseason games. Mills did return to practice on a full-go basis on Monday and probably would relish the opportunity to knock off some of the rust before the regular-season opener against Buffalo.

“That’s a good question,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said regarding Mills’ availability. “He did practice today. I haven’t talked to the trainers about that situation. We really haven’t made any decisions on those types of situations. We’re still working on who is going to play and who is not. But Jordan did practice today, which was a good thing.”

Veteran offensive lineman Eben Britton also practiced on Tuesday and should make his preseason debut in Cleveland, although his roster spot is far from assured. Britton's hamstring injury early in camp opened the door for Michael Ola and Dennis Roland to impress the coaching staff and potentially earn a spot on the final 53-man roster.

Chris Conte ready for preseason debut

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Nearly five months since undergoing shoulder surgery, Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte will make his preseason debut Friday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“I feel good. I’m excited to go out there and play,” Conte said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the field and play football.”

Conte, along with fellow safety Craig Steltz, were activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 10, but both sat out against Jacksonville. Safety remains unsettled, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray have started in each of the two previous preseason games. Veteran Adrian Wilson is another candidate in the mix, but no final decision can be reached at safety until the Bears determine if Conte can bounce back from a difficult 2013.

Conte has been a mainstay in the Bears’ secondary the last three seasons, recording 230 tackles, six interceptions and one forced fumble in 40 career starts.

“Chris had a good week of practice,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “He's running around. He's involved in terms of what we're doing. So we'll see. He's going to play. It looks certainly that he's going to play. And we haven't decided how much yet. But he'll be out there and he'll be competing and he's back in it to try to show us what he can do and we're excited to have him back.”

Barring a setback, Steltz is also expected to play on Friday, along with wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams, who seems to be recovered from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

The Bears held five players out of Wednesday’s practice: cornerback Kyle Fuller (ankle), guard Eben Britton (hamstring), center/guard Brian de la Puente (knee), cornerback Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Mundy (excused).
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Lovie Smith finished 10-6 in his final season with the Chicago Bears before being fired. Marc Trestman comes in and leads the Bears to an 8-8 record in 2013. Yet expectations soar here on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, where crowds for training camp practices routinely swell to 10,000.

It’s easy to see why. For a fan base accustomed to hard-nosed defense and shaky-at-best offense, Trestman flipped the script in 2013, taking Chicago’s attack to new heights with a major assist from general manager Phil Emery’s shrewd personnel moves.

The Bears broke record after record on offense last season, and the defense stumbled to historic lows.

If Trestman and Emery could basically work a miracle on offense in just one season, why can’t they do it on the other side of the ball in 2014?

“[I] feel very good about the competitive depth and the fights for positions that we're going to have,” Emery said. “Out of the three camps, I would say this camp has the best competitive level among the roster from 1 to 90.”

Emery achieved that by loading up on defenders: acquiring a mix of players poised to hit the sweet spot of their careers in Lamarr Houston and Willie YoungJared Allen, and drafting potential stars such as first-round pick Kyle Fuller. The Bears bolstered those moves with an overhaul of the scheme and additions to the defensive coaching staff.

“We started [with], ‘What could we do to get this team better?’” Trestman said. “I sat down with Phil [Emery], and we began to lay out a road map together on how we were going to rebuild this football team, and here we are at a stage where I don’t think there’s a player in our meeting room who doesn’t feel like there’s hope and high expectations. Now, it’s time to go to work.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJay Cutler is more comfortable in coach Marc Trestman's system, and all of his offensive weapons are healthy and ready to go.

1. Jay Cutler’s grasp of the offense is firmer in Year 2 of Trestman’s system, and his performance this year at camp is significantly different from in 2013. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Cutler is his own problem solver and is making on-field adjustments so instinctively that he doesn’t need guidance from the staff. In his first camp under Trestman, Cutler misfired routinely, and there were concerns about whether he’d be effective in the regular season. After one particularly bad session in 2013, Trestman gathered Cutler and the other quarterbacks in the middle of the field in what could be described as a turning point. That’s not happening this year at camp as Cutler has become a bona fide field general.

2. Brandon Marshall is Brandon Marshall. He wasn’t at camp in 2013. He was coming off hip surgery that hindered his season preparation. Fully healthy now with an offseason to condition, Marshall is ready to go -- and with full comprehension of the offensive system. Throw in Alshon Jeffery’s ascension and you have the makings of something lethal on offense. The duo has certainly looked that way at camp as both routinely make so many eye-popping plays that Cutler could almost throw it up blindly and one of them would come down with the ball.

3. There’s a nastiness on defense and intense focus reminiscent of the units put on the field in Smith’s heyday. Practicing against one of the best offenses in the league, the defense should be losing more than it does at training camp. But this group routinely bests the offense, with dominating play by the front seven as a hallmark. Chalk it up to a combination of personnel additions and a culture shift brought about by an overhaul of the scheme and the acquisition of no-nonsense, get-in-your-face coaches such as Paul Pasqualoni, Reggie Herring and Clint Hurtt.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mundy
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears brought Ryan Mundy in to compete at safety, but the position, at least in camp, continues to look shaky.

1. The defensive line makes plays at training camp. The corners and linebackers make plays. But you rarely see the safeties making an impact. That could be a result of a lack of chemistry because, with both spots up for grabs, the Bears are using several combinations at the position involving players such as Ryan Mundy, rookie Brock Vereen, Danny McCray, Adrian Wilson and M.D. Jennings. Horrid play at this position in 2013 contributed significantly to the defense’s demise, and we haven’t seen many indications at camp that the Bears will turn that around in 2014.

2. Protecting Cutler could become an issue if some of the injuries suffered by the team's offensive linemen linger. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) missed the preseason opener, and the latter was seen wearing a walking boot when the club returned to training camp after that game. Reserve center Brian de la Puente is expected to miss time to a knee injury, and reserve guard/tackle Eben Britton still hasn’t returned from a strained hamstring suffered earlier at camp.

3. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009. So naturally, you’d think at some point in 2014 the Bears will have to turn to the backup quarterback. The problem is the candidates vying for the No. 2 job -- Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen -- have done little to inspire confidence the way Josh McCown did last year at training camp. For the most part, Palmer and Clausen have been merely average at camp, misfiring on occasion and making mistakes typical of players acclimating themselves to a scheme. The duo needs to pick it up or the Bears could wind up looking outside the current roster for a suitable No. 2.


  • Chris Conte says he’s the best athlete in Chicago’s secondary. He needs to prove it, which he'll finally have a chance to do now that he's off the physically unable to perform list. Conte certainly possesses the athleticism to be a playmaker on the back end, provided he regains his confidence. But time is running out for Conte to make a real push for one of the two open jobs at safety. What Conte has going for him right now is that none of the safeties vying for the starting jobs is making plays at camp.
  • The Bears hired martial arts expert Joe Kim to teach the defensive linemen hand fighting techniques as part of the scheme overhaul that requires the front four players to be technicians with their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the results manifest themselves on the field. Every day after practice at camp, several defensive linemen -- and even some defensive backs -- work intricate hand fighting moves with Kim for several minutes. The players say the moves become almost natural once routinely put into practice on the field. We’ll see whether Kim’s assistance plays a role in the front four anchoring a run defense that finished last in 2013.
  • Zach Miller and Matthew Mulligan are pushing Dante Rosario hard for the No. 2 job at tight end. Miller is more of a move tight end, and Mulligan is a classic in-line blocker who shows some impressive skills as a receiver. The two have received extra reps because of Martellus Bennett's suspension.

Bears Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Morning showers soaked the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University on Tuesday. So the Bears moved their session across the street to Ward Field, where the club could practice on FieldTurf. “The players handled the transition today and the weather. We moved some things around, went indoors for our walk-through, came out here for the first time in full pads, got a lot of work done, moved some guys around and we made it through the day,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We wanted to make sure we got this one in. We had Plan B and Plan C. Plan A worked pretty good and we got a lot of work done.” According to a school official, the same company that installed the surface inside the Walter Payton Center laid the FieldTurf at ONU, with the work being completed approximately three weeks ago. The school’s soccer teams used the field for the first time on Monday, and the Bears were the first football team to put the surface to use.
  • Zach Miller continues to state a strong case to win the job as the club’s No. 2 tight end. Miller put together another solid outing, catching every ball thrown his way during the various team periods.
  • Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer struggled during Tuesday’s workout, throwing a pair of interceptions to safety Chris Conte and defensive end Willie Young. The INT thrown to Young hit the defensive end squarely in the chest. Conte secured his pick in the end zone during a red-zone drill on a pass intended for Micheal Spurlock. Trestman declined to say whether Jimmy Clausen had overtaken Palmer on the depth chart. “I don’t think we’ve had any movement there at all,” Trestman said. “We’ll move people around. We’ll see how they play in different environments and we’ll make a decision when we have to.”
  • Trestman said “it’s too soon to talk about” whether Conte will play Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Conte came off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and has practiced just two days.
  • Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray continued to take snaps at safety with the starters. The club did work in Conte and Adrian Wilson with the starters as well.
  • Brandon Marshall spent time catching punts during special-teams periods, but don’t expect the club to use him in that capacity during games. “Brandon Marshall likes to get into some drills that maybe he shouldn’t be in,” special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.
  • Non-participants for Tuesday’s session included Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Jordan Mills (foot), Brian De La Puente (knee), Marquess Wilson (collarbone), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Lance Briggs. Briggs isn’t injured. He was given a day off, which Trestman routinely does for veterans.
  • Keep an eye out for linebacker Jerry Franklin, who is taking snaps with the starters on some of the coverage and return units on special teams. He’s also been taking reps with the second team on defense.

Bears Camp Report: Day 12

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Several players injured earlier in camp returned to action on Sunday, while safeties Chris Conte and Craig Steltz came off the physically unable to perform list. Cornerback Tim Jennings (quadriceps) practiced along with Kyle Long (ankle), after both missed the preseason opener Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive end Jared Allen also returned to practice after missing multiple days to be with family for the birth of his daughter. Conte took some repetitions with the starters, but spent the majority of the day working with the backups.
  • Obviously the time spent watching Charles Tillman is helping Sherrick McManis, who executed a perfect punch to knock the ball out of the arms of Micheal Spurlock after he made a catch on an intermediate pass.
  • Non-participants at the workout Sunday included right tackle Jordan Mills, who was wearing a walking boot on his right foot, along with Eben Britton (hamstring), Chris Williams (hamstring), Isaiah Frey (hamstring), and Brian De La Puente (knee).
  • Having returned from an indefinite suspension earlier in the day, tight end Martellus Bennett drew loud applause from the crowd after he caught a pass near the sideline. Bennett stayed after practice to run extra springs with Conte, Steltz, Jennings, Alshon Jeffery, Josh Bellamy, Matt Forte, Armanti Edwards and Josh Morgan. Bennett and rookie quarterback David Fales continued to run after everyone else had left the field.
  • Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray continue to work with the starters at safety. Both starting positions remain up for grabs.
  • The practice on Sunday attracted the largest crowd so far at camp. There were 18,500 in attendance at the workout on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University.
  • The Bears practiced in shorts, helmet and shoulder pads, and the workout was one of the most lively sessions of camp, which is somewhat impressive considering the team had just played in a preseason game two days prior.